Reportage Festival Review
Reportage: A Retrospective 1999 – 2009 outdoor exhibition will open on the grounds of The National Art School. Reportage have collaborated with Susan Freeman of Freeman Ryan Designs who has designed the installation of the exhibition. Some of the most memorable images in the festival’s history will go up as large scale images along the historical sandstone walls of the old Sydney Gaol. The exhibition has been curated by Jacqui Vicario, Michael Amendolia, David Dare Parker, Stephen Dupont & Jack Picone.
My take on the Festival
Last night, the official opening of The Reportage Festival was a rare treat on Sydney Photographic calendar. The 10 year Retrospective of 80 large scale, exquisitely executed, weather-proof prints (in which I confess, I was included), currated by the Festival’s founders was as good a group exhibition as I have seen in Sydney… perhaps ever (at least in ‘my time’). There’s barely a weak image and conversely there are countless chillingly powerful, memorable images and dare I say some that have perhaps even become well known beyond the realms of the Australian photographic community.
This exhibition brings to Sydney, albeit on a smaller scale, what the likes of Perpignan and Arles bring to France and more broadly, Europe. The venue, given a balmy Spring evening with an iridescent, blue sky and the warm glow of The National Art School’s (NAS) garden lights is idyllic and only strengthens the impact of the work that it houses.
The exhibition is of an intimidatingly high standard and serves as serves as a mouth watering entrée to the projections with which Reportage has become synonymous over the past 10 years. With Adam Ferguson’s work (for which he was named the winner of The Reportage Festival Award) from the past couple of years in which time he has been embedded with US Troops on numerous occasions in Afghanistan, the bar was set worryingly high. I say worryingly because, having seen my fair share of photographic projections, many poorly edited and curated, I admit that I was sitting down to Reportage with degrees of ambivalence and cynicism. However, whether it was by virtue of my decreased expectations or by the quality of the work (and the editing), I was remarkably surprised and thrilled by the display of the first half of Reportage 2010 (the second half screening this Saturday at 8pm following a day of discussions and presentations at The NAS in Darlinghurst).
Other notable bodies of work came from Ed Giles whose masterfully cut black and white stills and video from the West Bank provided a lesson to all in progressive ways of working in the medium of photography – so too did Craig Golding’s hilarious portrayal of die hard Rugby League Fans. Krystal Wright’s spectacular, Arctic Landscapes and incongruously placed base-jumpers, Oculi friends Steven Siewert with his impressionistic and humerous portrayal of racing pigeons and their masters, Claire Martin’s observations of a small community living in The Colorado Dessert in deliberate rejection of mainstream society and James Brickwood whose work depicting Sydney’s illegal warehouse party scene preempted equally if not not darker subject matter with Hannah Robinson’s – The Empire and Ian Flanders’ – Cruising. A lighter, yet delightfully warm and intimate collection of black and white imagery of children at play in the environment of coastal Australia came from Dean Dampney. The presentation concluded as powerfully as it began with Daniel Berehulak’s documentation of scenes of desperation in Pakistan after recent floods as well as Lisa Wiltse’s insights into the oft-impenetrable community of Mennonites in Eastern Bolivia while another Oculi member, Nick Moir brought the night’s proceedings to a spectacular close with his cataclysmic and ever evolving visions of severe storms and fires.
As those who were sitting outside for the screenings (there was an indoor and an outdoor option) will attest, the one disappointment of the night was a technical glitch that meant that the colour rendering of all the projections was well and truly inaccurate and distractingly obvious. With the benefit of hindsight, to have stopped the show while the glitch was ironed out would have been preferable. However, although the photographers themselves would have been most distraught, the greater audience didn’t seem too perturbed and despite the disappointment scrawled across the faces of the organisers (in particular Steven Dupont) it didn’t succeed in taking the gloss of what was otherwise a triumphant evening for photography in Sydney.
Four and a half stars!